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Fire leaves six people without a home days before Christmas

By Bianca Rae, KESQ News Channel 3 Reporter, brae@kesq.com
Published On: Dec 23 2012 06:46:52 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 23 2012 07:04:04 PM CST
PALM DESERT, Calif. -

Chris Parnel said this still doesn't feel like reality.

"The only way I could explain it, it looked like someone opened the door to hell," he said.

As he looks at what remains of his apartment that caught fire late Saturday, he relives the details of the night.  

"My brother called me and told me the house was on fire, panicking, crying, freaking out. I dropped what I was doing and was back here within five minutes at the most," Parnel said.

Firefighters said a juvenile playing with fire started the devastating blaze.

"Everything was covered in smoke, smoke was pouring out," Parnel said.

Fire crews were able to stop the fire from spreading to other apartments, but not before Parnel's apartment was destroyed.

"Stressed. I lost everything. Everything in there I bought with my own money, I worked, I saved for everything in there. It's just gone in a flash. It's just gone," Parnel said.

Smoke damaged a second apartment. In all, six people now have to find a new home -- right before the holidays.

"I'm going to couch surf for a while and go from there," Parnel said.

Fortunately, no one was hurt.

"The animals and everyone being safe, that's what I'm thankful for right now. I was sitting here, and I saw them coming out and I was on my knees just pondering what was going on. I remember him walking out with my dog. It was a good feeling," Parnel said.

Just three days before Christmas, Parnel, his roommate, and his younger brother stare tragedy in the face. Parnel said Tuesday, he will turn off reality.

"Go and have a big dinner somewhere and just pretend like this didn't happen for the day. That's the only plans I can think of," Parnel said.

There is one reality he is thankful for, though.

"Luckily I didn't do my Christmas shopping yet. I'm a last minute guy, so that kind of worked to my favor there. I'm not sure if anyone is going to get anything this year," Parnel said.

Parnel moves forward toward the holiday, with loved ones, but little else.
 
"I don't even know how to feel right now. I lost everything. I have nothing," he said.